Accommodation review: Les Petits Matins Bleus, Normandy

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Relax and unwind in this rural dream in tranquil Normandy

When Anne Bourbeau moved from Paris to the mellow Norman village of Sainte-Marguerite-de-Viette 20 years ago, she may as well have been arriving onto a different planet. Only two hours of driving separate the Haussmann boulevards of the capital from the fruit-drooping orchards of Lower Normandy, but in almost every other respect they’re worlds away. Here, cockerels crow, bees buzz lazily from flower to flower and hills cascade gently into the distance. It’s little wonder that the region drew Anne in.

Fortunately for visitors, she wasn’t keen to keep the place to herself. She purchased an old farm on high ground, turning the house and its outbuildings into a handsome timbered retreat complete with comfortable private rooms and studios. Its setting alone is reason enough to spend a night or two here – the property sits at a nice remove from the main village road – although perhaps the greatest cause to come calling is the food and drink on offer. This is, after all, the Calvados district, where cheese and apples rule from on high.

Anne herself has six recipes in an official “A Table! En Normandie” cookbook, and guests that choose to experience her cooking can expect a fantastic (and filling) meal, with much in the way of apple-based tipples to wash the various courses down. It helps too that the farmhouse itself provides a warm dinner ambiance - the lantern-hung dining table alone would outsize some dining rooms, while the kitchen serves as a sociable space for hostess and guests to tuck into a Pont L’Évêque tartlet or five. It’s well suited to families and groups, with up to 13 accommodated.

Anne also offers cookery classes and – together with a locally based English watercolourist – hosts painting courses, and it’s clear that her two decades in Normandy have turned her into a dyed-in-the-wool local. She’s full of tips on the surrounding area – the likes of Lisieux, Trouville, Deauville and Honfleur are all accessible – and, no less tellingly, happily partakes in the healthy rivalry between Normandy and Brittany. “The Bretons eat oysters with their café au lait,” she laughs, laying out a breakfast complete with home-made jams. “C’est un atroce.”

Ben Lerwill

Two-person studio (€200 for a weekend), five-person cottage (€400 for a weekend). Breakfast included, dinner extra.

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